The Penn State women’s hockey team has begun its first season, and the Nittany Lions are undefeated.
The Nittany Lions won their inaugural game as a varsity program, beating Vermont 5-3 Saturday afternoon at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Freshmen accounted for all five Nittany Lion goals, with two apiece coming off the sticks of Micayla Catanzariti and Shannon Yoxheimer. Yoxheimer put her name in the Penn State history books by scoring the first goal in program history.
Nittany Lion goaltender Patricia Paniccia made 31 saves to earn the victory.
Emily Laurenzi also put her name in the record books, taking the opening faceoff and winning the draw to start the era.
“It’s almost hard to put it into words at this point,” head coach Josh Brandwene said. “What a gutsy effort by such a young group of kids. ... Give credit to Vermont, they came storming back and made it 4-3, (the student-athletes) never blinked and I’m so proud of them for that.”
The Catamounts opened the scoring 14:41 into the game with a goal from Brittany Zuback, pouncing on a rebound off the boards off a shot from Gina Repaci. Yoxheimer evened the contest with her history-maker. Taylor Gross set up Laurenzi for a shot that was stopped by Vermont goaltender Roxanne Douville, but Yoxheimer pounced on the rebound to tie the game with 3:38 left in the first period.
Following another Catamount goal from Delia McNally for a 2-1 Vermont lead after one period, Penn State rolled off three straight goals — including two from Catanzariti. The first came just as a power play expired as Catanzariti tipped in a shot from the point by Madison Smiddy. Catanzariti then scored again later in the period with help from Jess Desorcie and Birdie Shaw to give the Nittany Lions their first lead in program history.
Yoxheimer then scored again midway through the third period with help from Gross, converting a turnover into a 2-on-1 break. Shaw finished the night with an empty-net goal from Catanzariti with 29 seconds left.
Vermont picked up its other goal between those two Penn State scores when Emily Walsh found the net from Klara Myren and Zuback.
“It’s almost tough to quantify,” Brandwene said. “We grinded and grinded for 11 or so practices, once the start of official camp opened up, and to come out here and do what they did today is just a really special thing for the program. I’m really proud of them all.”
The Catamounts outshot the Nittany Lions 34-24 and converted on both of their power play opportunities, while Penn State was 0-for-3 with a woman advantage.
“We didn’t execute the way that we can play,” Vermont head coach Jim Plumer said. “We started slow and didn’t create the kind of momentum that we wanted to, and Penn State played hard, give them credit.”
Vermont, which has had a varsity program since 2001, set an attendance record for a home opener with 785 fans on hand.
The win marked the first time since 1943 that a Penn State varsity hockey team carded a victory. The varsity men’s team defeated Drexel Tech 4-1 on Feb. 17, 1943. The team folded in 1947, the season before NCAA hockey officially began, making Saturday’s win the first NCAA victory in school history.
The teams complete their two-game weekend series this afternoon in Burlington. The Nittany Lions will then return for their home opener next Saturday night, hosting Syracuse at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.